The Associated Press reports: The leader of a powerful al-Qaida-linked group in Syria gave a rival breakaway group a five-day ultimatum to accept mediation by leading clerics to end infighting or be “expelled” from the region.
The ultimatum announced in an audio recording by the leader of the Nusra Front aims to end months of deadly violence between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and other Islamic factions. The fighting has killed hundreds of people since the beginning of the year and is undermining their wider struggle against President Bashar Assad.
It comes two days after the killing of Abu Khaled al-Suri, who had acted as al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri’s representative in Syria. Rebels and activists believe he was assassinated by two suicide attackers from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Both the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant are considered terrorist organizations by the United States.
Al-Zawahri has named the Nusra Front al-Qaida’s branch in Syria and broken ties with the Islamic State, which has increasingly clashed with rebel brigades in opposition-held areas of Syria. The Islamic State has angered other factions with its brutal tactics and campaign to Islamize areas under its control in the northeast.
More than 2,000 people have been killed in the fighting between the Islamic State and rebel groups, including the Nusra Front.
Abu Mohammed al-Golani, the Nusra Front leader, suggested in the audio recording arbitration by clerics to stop the infighting. He warned the Islamic State that it would be driven from Syria and “even from Iraq” if it rejected the results of arbitration. He did not elaborate on how his group might do that. [Continue reading…]